Screamfest 2017 - The Shorts
***** = Outstanding ****1/2 = Excellent **** = Very Good ***1/2 = Above Average
*** = Good **1/2 = Mediocre ** = Fair *1/2 = Poor * = Bad 1/2* = Abysmal
Director: Steve Boyle
Starring: Erica Field, Cameron Hurry
Running Time: 10 minutes
Boy meets girl. Boy does terrible things but that's not all. At the outset it looks like Steve Boyle's horror short will be delivering exactly what a viewer may be expecting. It's just a short about a seemingly normal guy with a penchant for malicious violence towards women. While on the surface you'd be right but as it unfolds you begin to see what lies just beneath all the insanity and violence.
Providing even the most vague plot summary could prove to be a spoiler but what can be said is it's a well written and paced short. It features solid performances by Erica Field and Cameron Hurry. It has plenty of convincing practical effects and nice sound design that plays up the gruesomeness of it all.
AVULSION draws you in, delivers some shocking and grisly moments and provides a fitting coda that astute genre fans may see coming but will nevertheless greatly appreciate.
Director: Daniel Byers
Starring: Harry Aspinwall, Holly Schaff, Maija D'Amico Blomquist, Alexander Cooke, Steven O'Broin
Running Time: 33 minutes
Since the zombie genre's inception, films have traditionally had a contemporary setting for the times they were released. DAWN OF THE DEAD was very much a 70s film and WORLD WAR Z was very much a 21st century film. Surprisingly period zombie films only became a thing in the last decade or so. It's always fun to think about how a particular event would unfold if it occurred in a different time. For example, imagine how cool would it be to see the Predator in the Old West. With his film, BLOODYBACK, writer/director Daniel Byers unleashes a zombie outbreak in the midst of the French & Indian War.
While the rules of a modern zombie outbreak still apply, shoot them in the head, don't make loud noises, some run and some don't, etc., it's the limitations of the period that provide the most drama. Byers smartly exploits that aspect of the new setting. As we've seen, survivors of a present day outbreak have the benefit of understanding how to tackle the situation but over two-hundred years ago no one had that luxury. The questions raised and courses of action taken feel very much of the time.
There have been other shorts and feature films which have unleashed zombies in the past and BLOODYBACK certainly ranks among the best of the lot. It's a well performed film and thanks to great costume design and locations it really captures the period and looks and feels like the zombie outbreak of the French & Indian War.
Director: Marcos DeBrito
Starring: Marcelo Argenta, Francisco Gaspar, Jesus Machanoscki, Gabriel Muglia, Thaty Taranto
Running Time: 14 minutes
The next full moon is just days away and a headless man, yes a headless man, is preparing an elaborate supper which he plans to film. Why does this man have no head? Why is he waiting for the next full moon? What purpose does this dinner serve? Why does he have a collection of heads where each is named after one of the twelve apostles? What devious scheme does this beast have planned? Well you'll just have to sit back and watch as writer/director Marco DeBrito answers these questions and more in his entertaining horror short APOSTLES.
Much pleasure can be derived from this film as DeBrito reveals the how and to what lengths the headless man will go to build his collection. It's unexpectedly humorous, at times twisted and certainly brutally violent. Over the course of the film the question of where this is leading will be bouncing about the back of your head and ultimately you may not immediately figure it out. When the endgame is finally revealed it comes off as funny, simple, striking, brilliant and audacious.
DeBrito sets up an intriguing story and draws you in with solid performances and a twisted sense of humor. Oddly enough you find yourself empathizing with this headless being and you want to see him accomplish whatever it is he's trying to do. I myself sort of had an idea of what was to come but I did not anticipate how which had me chuckling as it was revealed.
Director: Simon Ross
Starring: Rob Witcomb, Mia Austen, Brian Bovell, Juan Pablo Jepez, Elizabeth George, Oscar Blend, Ben Adams, Bradley Taylor
Running Time: 20 minutes
When Simon Ross' film begins it appears as though we're about to be stuck in the middle of one of the most uncomfortable and awkward dinner parties ever committed to film. Maurice, the party host, has no filter and allows vitriol to spew forth but despite this something seems off. Something is indeed off and Ross, who also wrote the film, uses that as a spring board to present an unexpectedly twisted and taught thriller.
This is a well performed film and is ultimately carried on the able shoulders of Rob Witcomb who plays Maurice. He does a fine job of playing a socially awkward loner who's just trying to be entertaining while still being himself. The supporting cast playing the dinner guests all do a solid job of trying to be proper dinner guests despite their host's fallacies.
As previously mentioned Ross' film is a twisted and taught thriller which means it's going to takes some unexpected turns. However, these developments are not telegraphed and with each new plot twist the film remains rooted in horror but changes genres and becomes a real fun ride as events unfold.
WHAT METAL GIRLS ARE INTO
Director: Laurel Vail
Starring: Laurel Vail, Chelsea Blechman, Kari Assad, Matt Mercer, Torrey Drake, Aaron Leddick, Matt Mercer, Torrey Drake, Aaron Leddick
Running Time: 15 minutes
You're heading to a metal festival weekend in the desert with your best friends. You're booked at a B&B but unfortunately the awkward landlord always seems to be on the premises. You're three girls ready to bang heads, mosh out and rock on...what's the worst that could happen? In Laurel Vail's directorial debut bad things do happen but not at all the way you'd expect in this entertaining metal comedy.
By horror movie standards, fans would likely expect the trio of Laurel Vail, Chelsea Blechman and Kari Assad to fulfill the expected tropes and trappings of the genre. Viewers, much like the antagonists of the film, may make the mistake of assuming they know WHAT METAL GIRLS ARE INTO and Vail flips the script and doesn't deliver what fans want, you know the nudity, sex and violence, but instead presents far more engaging, empathetic, smart protagonists who deliver some serious fist-pumping justice with some not so subtle violence.
Vail delivers an entertaining black comedy that sets viewers up for one thing and takes them somewhere else. The entire cast have strong comic timing and winning comedic reactions to various situations. The film provides the desired thrills, chills and laughs but more importantly makes a rather emphatic statement when all is said and done. Righteous!
Director: Drew Macdonald
Starring: Harry Piaggio, Melanie Zanetti
Running Time: 12 minutes
Generations ago your parents likely told you to never get into cars with strangers. It's sound advice that still applies today but nowadays we call upon strangers to give us rides in their cars. Just how much can you trust your driver. Sure they may have a five star rating and great reviews but can you trust them. Writer-director Drew Macdonald really plays around with that inherent trust in his creepy cautionary tale about a service we all take for granted, ride shares for hire.
Macdonald's thriller is at once uncomfortable thanks to how plausible and realistic the film is. Don't be so quick to dismiss the events depicted in the film as mere exaggeration because the plot is unflinchingly sound. The film stars Harry Piaggio as the driver and the lengths he goes to stalk and infiltrate the life of his passenger, Demi, played by Melanie Zanetti, is quite unsettling. Piaggio is effectively creepy yet quite reserved as he skillfully hides just what his character has in mind.
What makes Macdonald's thriller so effective is the knowledge that what is happening on screen could very well be happening somewhere in the world and that can be pretty damn scary. While it won't give any one pause the film will certainly make you wonder just who is that person driving you around, where have they been, what have they done and what do they know. "Your Uber driver will arrive in 2 minutes." Gulp.